Kurt Vogel Russell (born March 17, 1951) is an American actor who began his career as a child in the Western series The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. After many successful years as a child actor, he signed a ten-year contract with Disney in 1966 at the age of 15, leading to him initially being best-known as a teen star with regular appearances in Disney's family comedies (not unlike Zac Efron or Hilary Duff).note
Against all odds, he eventually made a successful transition to starring in action films as an adult, becoming particularly famous for his numerous collaborations with director John Carpenter—which solidified his image as a rugged anti-hero, and helped him shed his image as a clean-cut Disney star. Despite this, he didn't immediately end his association with Disney after his contract ended in 1976: his last collaboration with the company was in 1981, when he voiced the titular hound dog Copper in The Fox and the Hound. Strangely enough, The Fox and the Hound hit theaters the same year as Russell's iconic star turn as Snake Plissken in Escape from New York.
(Yes, that grizzled man with the eyepatch voiced a cartoon dog in a Disney flick a few months before he killed his way through half of New York)
While not to the level of Typecasting, several of his roles also tie him to Elvis Presley in some way, portraying him in a 1979 biopic, cameoing as a young Elvis in Forrest Gump, and playing an Elvis Impersonator in 3000 Miles to Graceland who is actually Elvis' son.
Amusingly, he actually acted with Elvis in his feature film debut: his very first film acting credit was a bit part in the 1963 Elvis vehicle It Happened at the World's Fair, where he plays a young boy who gets paid 25 cents to kick Elvis' character in the shins. Supposedly, the young Russell had difficulty filming that scene because he was such a big fan of Elvis—so Elvis paid him $5 to kick him.
Roles of Note:
- Lost in Space (1966): Quano
- The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968): Sidney Bower
- The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972), and The Strongest Man in the World (1975): Dexter Riley
- Fools' Parade (1971)
- Used Cars (1980): Rudy Russo
- The Fox and the Hound (1981): Adult Copper (voice)
- Escape from New York (1981): Snake Plissken
- Escape from L.A. (1996)
- The Thing (1982): R.J. MacReady
- Silkwood (1983): Drew Stephens
- Swing Shift (1984): Mike "Lucky" Lockhart
- The Best of Times (1986): Reno Hightower
- Big Trouble in Little China (1986): Jack Burton
- Overboard (1987): Dean Proffitt
- Tequila Sunrise (1988): Detective Nick Frescia
- Tango and Cash (1989): Detective Gabriel "Gabe" Cash
- Backdraft (1991): Lieutenant Stephen 'Bull' McCaffrey / Captain Dennis McCaffrey
- Captain Ron (1992): Captain Ron
- Unlawful Entry (1992): Michael Carr
- Tombstone (1993): Wyatt Earp
- Stargate (1994): Col. Jack O'Neil
- Forrest Gump (1994): Young Elvis Presley (uncredited)
- Executive Decision (1996): Dr. David Grant
- Breakdown (1997): Jeff Taylor
- Soldier (1998): Todd
- 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001): Michael Zane
- Vanilla Sky (2001): McCabe
- Interstate 60 (2002): Captain Ives
- Dark Blue (2003): Eldon Perry
- Miracle (2004): Coach Herb Brooks
- Sky High (2005): Steve "The Commander" Stronghold
- Poseidon (2006): Robert Ramsey
- Death Proof (2007): Stuntman Mike
- The Art of the Steal (2013): Crunch Calhoun
- Fast & Furious franchise: "Mr. Nobody"
- The Hateful Eight (2015): John "The Hangman" Ruth
- Bone Tomahawk (2015): Sheriff Franklin
- Deepwater Horizon (2016): Jimmy Harrell
- Marvel Cinematic Universe: Ego the Living Planet
- The Christmas Chronicles (2018): Santa Claus
- The MonsterVerse (2023–)
- Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (2023): Lee Shaw
- Anti-Hero: Despite some of his roles being in family-fare comedy, his best known roles are his anti-heroes.
- The Charmer: He's a very charismatic actor and his characters can charm just about anyone.
- Cool Old Guy: As he hit his 60s, most of his characters became this by default.
- Contractual Purity: For a long time during and after his stint with Disney he was only cast in family-friendly comedy roles.
- Former Child Star: An well-known aversion: he started acting at the age of eleven, but was able to successfully transition to adult roles without any of the self-destructive or hardships other child stars face.
- Generation Xerox: His son Wyatt Russell is also an actor and has a knack for playing similarly charming and likable characters. Just as Kurt was a pro baseball player, Wyatt was a college and pro hockey player before he started acting.
- Happily Married: A subversion: he and partner Goldie Hawn never married, but given the longevity and stability of their union, it certainly still qualifies as this trope.
- Large Ham: In many of his roles, especially his action films.
- Mr. Fanservice: In The '80s, expecially as Snake Plissken, he was prone to show his well shaped and normal muscular body.note
- Playing with Character Type: His role as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 seems perfectly in keeping with his usual gregarious, charismatic characters. Then the truth comes out...
- Production Posse: He's worked a lot with John Carpenter and Quentin Tarantino.
- Silver Fox: He's in his seventies with his hair having gone completely grey, but he's still very ruggedly handsome and his charisma hasn't faded one bit with age.
- Uncredited Role: He had an uncredited cameo as Elvis Presley in Forrest Gump. It's hard to notice, considering that Presley's face in the film is never shown except for one blurry background shot.
- What Could Have Been:
- He was the runner-up for the part of Han Solo in A New Hope before the casting of Harrison Ford.
- Before his adult acting career, Russell was actually a professional baseball player, making it as far as Double-A before a collision at second base ruined his rotator cuff and his career.
- Walt Disney's last words were to simply scribble "Kurt Russell" on a piece of paper. Not even Russell knows what it meant, but the most likely theory is that it was some movie idea that Disney considered the young Russell would have been perfect for.
- When legendary film producer Ray Stark bought the rights to The Blue Lagoon in the late 1960s, he envisioned him as the male lead, however, his contract with Disney prevented him from getting the part.
- He applied for the role of Romeo Montague in Romeo and Juliet (1968).
- Written by Cast Member: He co-wrote Escape from L.A..